What bills are alive after the funnel deadline?

The first funnel deadline in the Legislature advances some, kills other bills.



From the roof of the Iowa Historical Museum in Des Moines, the state capitol seems to hover above Des Moines East Village. (Robert Cross/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Julia DiGiacomo, politics reporter

The first round of bills have been sifted through committees in the Iowa Legislature.  The surviving bills are one step closer to becoming law in Iowa, from expanding the CBD program to dispensing birth control without prescription and more.

By March 8, any bills that have not been passed through a House or Senate committee die, meaning they can’t be considered later during the session. This self-imposed deadline on March 8, known as the funnel deadline, was created to keep the legislative process moving.

Rep. Michael Breitbach, R-Strawberry Point, said the Legislature usually receives around 2,500 new bills and amendments each year.

“But only between around 170 or 175 seem to make it all the way through [funnel week],” he said.

As of March 7, approximately 180 bills were eligible for debate on the Senate floor and 125 in the House. These will progress to be debated on the chamber floor starting March 11.

A number of bills approved for floor debate are picking up momentum.

Gov. Kim Reynolds proposed a bill Feb. 12 to allow hormonal contraceptives to be purchased without a prescription, which was recommended for unanimous passage by a House subcommittee March 6.

Under the bill, Iowa Department of Public Health’s medical director would sign a statewide standing order to serve in place of a prescription so that adult Iowans could more easily receive contraceptive products such as birth-control pills, hormone patches, and vaginal rings. Pharmacists would be required to undergo specific training on dispensing the contraceptives.

Related: Reynolds supports over-the-counter birth control

Legislation, introduced by Sen. Brad Zaun, R-Urbandale, and Sen. Nate Boulton, D-Des Moines, could expand the availability of CBD in Iowa. The bill would increase the list of medical ailments to be treated with cannabidiol.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said a similar House bill passed through committee earlier this week. He said its expansions are modest in comparison with the Senate bill.

“It doesn’t add any more locations where people can get medications,” he said. “There are only five dispensaries in the state, and we need many many more if we’re going to have people easily access cannabis medicine.”

Related: Lawmakers try to expand CBD program

Other bills that have successfully progressed past the deadline include a bill to allow firearms in the parking lots of school grounds and a bill to give legislators a role in the the judicial-commission selection.

Legislation to establish a children’s mental-health system picked up support in committee as well. The initiative would require specific core services for children’s mental-health services.

Related: Momentum for children’s mental-health system grows in Iowa

Other bills will be left on the cutting room floor of the Capitol, not having successfully passed out of their respective committees.

One bill in the House which would require that the state Board of Regents adopt a written measure to ensure that Iowa universities do not infringe on college students’ free speech, was not taken up for debate by the House Education Committee.

A Senate version, however, did pass the Senate Education Committee, and is eligible for floor debate.

Rep. Art Staed, D-Cedar Rapids, voted against the regent bill in subcommittee.

“There was some discussion about whether or not this was kind of a backhanded accusation that [the regents] are not honoring free expression at the universities where clearly I think … that’s not the case,” he said. “They’re certainly open to free expression, and I’m not aware of suppression of that in any of our universities.”

Another university-related bill that was not picked up by the Senate Education Committee included a bill to end professor tenure in universities.

Related: Free-speech bill moving through Iowa Senate following court ruling against UI

Breitbach, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee, said one bill could have prevented the state from continuing to buy land for conservation efforts. However, the bill stalled in committee.

“Right now, the state has a lot of land that it’s unable to maintain,” Breitbach said. “The Department of Natural Resources does not have the funds or the manpower to maintain it. You also have to look at what is the function of the state. Is the function of the state to own land or is the function of the state to work for the people of Iowa and provide services and structure?”

Critics of the bill say it could negatively affect the state’s conservation efforts of Iowa’s nature.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, said in an interview March 3 he was working to get one of his bills through committee this week before the funnel deadline. March 7, his puppy-mill legislation was approved for floor debate.

“One of the bills that’s important to a lot of folks in Johnson County that I just recently worked on is a bill to combat puppy mills and try to hold some of the bad actors that don’t do a good job of caring for their puppies … accountable,” he said.

Editor’s note: a previous version of this article incorrectly stated that a bill to end tenure at Iowa universities did pass committee. The bill was not taken up in the Senate Education Committee. The Daily Iowan regrets the error.